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Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano); Philharmonia/Ettore Gracis (1957) EMI 567 2382
Reclusive Italian virtuoso pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli remained a notoriously reluctant recording artist, feeling unable to commit his performances to disc for fear that they would not match his self-imposed high standards. Yet there were a few occasions on which he managed to overcome such qualms.
The most notable took place in March 1957 at No. 1 Studio in Abbey Road where, after giving a successful performance of the then rarely-heard Rachmaninov Fourth Piano Concerto at the Royal Festival Hall, Michelangeli readily agreed to record the work for EMI alongside the Ravel Piano Concerto.
The results were inspired. In the Rachmaninov, the heroic virtuosity of Michelangeli’s playing banished any doubts that this composition was a poor shadow of its predecessors, while the cool demeanour and exquisite subtlety
of the Ravel slow movement remains peerless.